Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baby Mama Drama

Do you want to get married? Do you know why you want to get married? If you actually answered these questions, you probably sprouted off some trite answer like "companionship" or something about the Bible. I'm not so sure there really is a compelling argument for marriage...at least not for me. I don't knock other people's choices, but I'm not 100 percent that will be the end-all for me.

This is completely opposite of my family and how I was raised. My family is Black, Southern, Christian and conservative. We don't shack (that's living with a boyfriend/girlfriend without the benefit of marriage, for the uninitiated), we don't have shotgun weddings (when the first baby's an unseen guest at the wedding reception) and we don't become baby mamas. Period.

So when I read A Belle In Brooklyn's treatise on Black women and single motherhood, I was prepared to roll my eyes and disagree with yet another snobbish, elitist, East Coast conservative view of unmarried women and their threat to the family values of Black America. But I didn't. I thought her reflections were an attempt to understand what is going on and relay her own experiences. Above all, she seemed to be searching for answers.

Here's a little of what she wrote:

I don’t judge “trends” by what celebs do because they are a lil’ different than the masses (and I also don’t think being popular or talented makes you an automatic “role model”), but the prevalence of single Black moms in “reality” is backed up by the by the numbers— 70% of Black children are born to unwed mothers. And in case you think that’s just manipulated stats at work, the writer-icon (a very involved Mommy) estimates that four out of five women that she talks to about mommy-stuff are single moms.

I thought this was interesting and telling. When I envision my perfect family life, I don't necessarily see a ring or a wedding album, but I see a man by my side and children. When I hear that 70 percent of Black children born to unwed mothers I know (from my own interactions with Black women and children) that those kids won't have a consistent man in their lives. I know that their mothers want to get married, they want the white dress, ring and fond memories of Pop Pop doing the electric slide at the reception.

Belle's blog assumed something that I don't necessarily see as true: That when women get married, they stay married, thereby ensuring that family structure throughout the child's life. This doesn't usually happen for American families and is even more unlikely for Black American families.

Overall, I like that someone is talking about the Black family, because we do have a lot of work to do. Not to get "back" to any perceived familial utopia, but to move forward and get to place where we are more functional. For some that may include marriage, and for others something else.

Read: Reflections: Single Mothers



Renee said...

I guess what bother me is that marriage will somehow cure the problems in the Black community. The idea that a woman need submit to a man, after all marriage today is not removed from its patriarchal beginnings. I think what we need to start to stress is communal responsibility for children rather than marriage per see. If we saw all children as belonging to us and invested in them, that would do far more for our communities than marriage ever would.

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